By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 14, 2014 – The presidential election scheduled April 5 is the main focus for Afghanistan and its national security forces, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said here yesterday.
“For those that have followed Afghanistan, the elections are the main event right now,” the general told reporters at the Pentagon. “We’re just weeks away [from] the 5th of April.”
Dunford emphasized that the coalition is not responsible for securing the elections, but will provide support when needed. ISAF and partner nations are providing limited logistical support in the distribution of materials, he said, and the vast majority of tasks are being done by Afghans.
The general said he will provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, some quick-reaction-force capability, and perhaps some close air support capability, if needed, to support the election.
“We know that both the Taliban and Haqqani as a subset, if you will, of the Taliban, are absolutely determined to disrupt the elections,” Dunford said. “They said it publicly, [and] we’ve seen indications of that for some months now.” They fear inclusive elections, and don’t want them to take place, he added.
As he did in earlier engagements with Congress, Dunford praised the Afghan national security forces for their transition to handling their country’s security.
“When I took this job, we had over 100,000 forces -- coalition -- on the ground in Afghanistan,” he said. “We’ve got about 45,000 today, [and] security hasn’t changed.
“On the one hand, you might say, ‘Well, security hasn’t changed,” Dunford continued. “I’d say, ‘Yes, that is exactly right, and that’s pretty extraordinary that it hasn’t changed, because the Afghans have provided the security in 2013. We provided it in 2012, and it hasn’t changed.”
The general said the Afghan forces have been doing an “extraordinary job” of going into traditional enemy support zones and conducting operations to dislocate them.
They are setting conditions in that regard to make sure the enemy is not in a position to disrupt the elections, he added.
“They also will probably, about a week or 10 days [to] two weeks before the elections, have their final security posture set,” he said. “They’re in a process now of doing final rehearsals and coordination and so forth.”
Emphasizing again that coalition forces are playing a “very, very minor role” in the security of elections, Dunford provided contrast for reporters.
“The last point to that is that in 2009, we had 250,000 forces securing the elections,” the general said. “That’s a combination of coalition and Afghan alike.” This time, 425,000 troops will provide security for the elections this year: 375,000 members of the Afghan army, national police and local police, supported by 45,000 NATO forces.